Domestic violence in Saudi Arabia
Domestic abuse in Saudi Arabia started to receive public attention in 2004 after a popular television presenter, Rania al-Baz, was severely beaten by her husband, and photographs of her bruised and swollen face were published in the press. According to Al-Baz, her husband beat her, intending to kill her, after she answered the phone without his permission.
Violence against women and children in the home was traditionally not seen as a criminal matter in Saudi Arabia until 2013. In 2008, "social protection units", Saudi Arabia's version of women's shelters, were ordered by the prime minister to expand in several large Saudi cities. That year the prime minister also ordered the government to draft a national strategy to deal with domestic violence. Some Saudi royal foundations, such as the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue and the King Khalid Foundation, have also led education and awareness efforts against domestic violence. Five years later, in 2013, Saudi Arabia launched its first major effort against domestic violence, the "No More Abuse" ad campaign.
In August 2013, the Saudi cabinet approved a law making domestic violence a criminal offence for the first time. The law calls for a punishment of up to a year in prison and a fine of up to 50,000 riyals (US$13,000). The maximum punishments can be doubled for repeat offenders. The law criminalizes psychological and sexual abuse, as well as physical abuse. It also includes a provision obliging employees to report instances of abuse in the workplace to their employer. The move followed a Twitter campaign. The new laws were welcomed by Saudi women's rights activists, although some expressed concerns that the law could not be implemented successfully without new training for the judiciary, and that the tradition of male guardianship would remain an obstacle to prosecutions.
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